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REVIEW ARTICLES HIGH POLITICIANS: PALMERSTON, PEEL, GLADSTONE E. D. Steele. Palmerston and Liberalism, 1855 - 1865. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. xvi + 467. $69.50 US (cloth). Eric J. Evans. Sir Robert Peel: Statesmanship, Power, and Party. London and New York: Routledge, 1991. xii + 82. $9.95 US (paper). Michael Winstanley. Gladstone and the liberal Party. London and New York: Routledge, 1990. xü + 77. $9.95 US (paper). Peter J. Jagger. Gladstone, The Making ofa Christian Politician. Allison Park, P.A.: Pickwick PubUcations, 1991. xx + 326. $24.00 US (paper). Ann Pottinger Saab. Reluctant Icon. Gladstone, Bulgaria, and the Working Classes. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard UP, 1991. xii + 257. $39.95 US (cloth). In late June of 1850 Lord Palmerston deUvered his famous "Civus Romanus sum" speech in the House of Commons debate on the Don Pacifico affair, a speech that markedly elevated his poUtical stature in the House and, more especiaUy, in thecountry. Among those attacking Palmerston's foreign poUcy on this occasion were Sir Robert Peel and William Gladstone. Neither Peel nor his audience knew at the time that his paUid performance in the Don Pacifico debate would be the last speech the House would hear from him. The next afternoon he was thrown from his horse, the resultant injuries ending his Ufe three days later. In the decade foUowing Peel's death his most formidable protégé experienced a notable degree of poUtical frustration. Inhospitable to Gladstone's aspirations, the poUtical environment of these years generally had good things in store for Palmerston, whose triumph in the Don Pacifico debate presaged the coming of the Palmerstonian ascendancy. One can of course argue with success, but this is not exactly what historians have done in the case of Palmerston. In truth, we have not much noticed him. The literature on Gladstone is voluminous; that on Peel ample; comparatively scanty is the coverage that Palmerston has elicited. And there Review Articles65 is not much to be puzzled at here. Whereas both Peel and Gladstone had a conspicuous personal identification with a number of the great questions of nineteenth-century British political history, Palmerston had not. There has also been a tendency among historians to take Peel and Gladstone almost as seriously as they took themselves. For Gladstone and his mentor a political career worth having enjoined "statesmanship." By way of contrast, Palmerston's jocularity and disposition for catch-as-catch-can, be it fun or political advantage (better yet a combination of the two), scarcely seems the stuff of which statesmen are made. If we want our work to convey seriousness of purpose (a matter to which few academics can afford to be indifferent), it helps to have a subject with a measure ofgravitas greater than Palmerston evidently possessed. Of the five books listed at the head of this essay, one is on Peel, a second on Palmerston, and the remaining three on Gladstone. This distribution is roughly what would be expected, but a mere count of this sort is rather misleading. Three of the five are monographs, the works by Evans and Winstanley, on Peel and Gladstone respectively, forming part of the Lancaster Pamphlets Series. Although these latter do more than summarize the existing literature on their subjects, they are nonetheless "pamphlets," and the level ofgenerality inherent in the genre makes of them something different in kind from the intensive explorations and analyses engaged in by Steele, Jagger, and Saab. Precedence here will be given to Steele's Palmerston and Liberalism, 1855 - 1865. I think it imprudent to separate the two pamphlets, and therefore propose to ignore the fact that Palmerston's premierships came after Peel's. (WiU those who insist on making a fetish of chronology be mollified by the recoUection that Palmerston was Peel's senior by four years and that the former entered upon ministerial office one year before Peel, in 1809?) Moreover, of the three monographs Steele's alone is a work of pure political history, and my own bias is one that requires those by Jagger and Saab to defer to it. What is largely at issue in Palmerston and Liberalism is the brand of politics practiced by the protagonist during his years of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 64-76
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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